Tag Archives: Stand to Reason

Better not to shotgun a response

1 Feb

When you flush out a covey of quail, don’t shoot into the covey. Instead, pick out and select one bird to bring down!

flock-of-birds

Good advice from a quail-hunter.  And appropriate for addressing opposing views we encounter these days.

I absorbed this advice just recently and already it is making a difference.  One afternoon not too long ago, we indulged in our favorite after church past time, sharing lunch while reading the Sunday paper.  An op-ed piece about ‘women’s health issues’ had caught my eye and raised my dander.  The authors wrote, decrying the new administration’s goal of decreasing federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The way they framed their argument seemed to have one goal:  to arouse the ire of women by describing a presumed danger of losing access to existing health care.

The team of two local professors raised several points worthy of questioning and I wanted to tackle them all.  Fortunately for my intended audience, I took a walk and listened to radio host Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason explain a principle learned from his days as a boy hunting quail with his friends.

He explained that if you shoot directly into the covey, you’d waste your shot.  But if you aim for one bird, you have a better chance of actually bagging one.

His advice applied to our current contentious climate in America and shaped how I focused my letter to the editor later that afternoon.  Listening to Greg, I also saw in a flash why previous letters I had penned most likely exercised zero effect on readers.  Past letters have probably tanked due to a jumble of points, all poorly developed.

So what did I focus on in this most current letter?  A statistic mentioned in the paper’s essay. In a strategic move to minimize the arguments of the pro-life position, the authors stated that abortions account for only 3 % of all of Planned Parenthood’s services.

I smelled a fake statistic.

Sure enough when I went to factcheck.org I read how PP counts services.  Say a woman goes into a PP facility thinking she might be pregnant and wanting to discuss options.  In one visit, she might receive:

  • an initial screening consult
  • a blood test
  • a pee test
  • a pap smear
  • a referral to another provider for a different issue the consult uncovered

And if this woman does indeed choose to schedule an abortion, that second visit might include:

  • a information/procedural consult
  • an ultrasound
  • a further consult
  • an abortion
  • a post-procedure consult
  • 1 or 2 prescriptions for pain/possible infection
  • a prescription for contraception

So this hypothetical one gal might receive 12 different services and only 1 is an abortion.

Do you see how the quantity of abortions performed could be minimized when compared with the accompanying services?

Thanks to Greg Koukl’s advice preceding my letter attempt, I selected this one issue and worked to write as clearly and persuasively as possible pointing out the misleading accounting.  I don’t know if anyone will be persuaded, but clarifying my purpose and aiming at just one ‘quail’ focused me and guided my thoughts and word choice.

 

Narrowing my efforts also helped me articulate for myself what my ‘bone of contention’ is!  Whatever our views, it’s always worth the time to know what we believe and why!

Stating the obvious – words matter!

18 Jan

Aren’t you thankful that God created us with communicative language skills?  I often take that gift for granted.

Two recent ‘aha!’ moments brightened my day and made me grateful for the insights words can provide.

The first one:

This morning, while walking for exercise, I listened to a John Piper sermon where he mentioned God’s purpose for creating you & me.  He cited Isaiah 43:8 when describing what God says His reasons:

  • everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

What was new to me was that the fact that God WILL be glorified by every person.  Piper framed it like this.  Are we going to glorify God like Judas or like Peter? It’s not up to US whether we glorify Him or not.  If God says He created us with the express purpose of showcasing His glory, then He will. For being God, by ontological nature, everything that He wills to be done IS/WILL BE done.  And how do WE know what His will is?  From what He says, what is written in the Bible.  Words!

The import of this fact that God will be glorified by each of the people He creates is this: Whether we die as a hardened God-hater or rather as a person whose heart burns to proclaim and point to the wonders of God, each of us WILL bring glory to Him when He rewards or punishes us.

The second one: 

Alan Shlemon from Stand to Reason wrote a letter about how Jesus modeled truth and compassion while on earth.

As I began to read, I assumed I knew what sense of ‘truth’ Alan was addressing:  the truth that Jesus, as God, had about the moral failures of everyone He met.

But the way Alan described Jesus’ use of truth was in focused study of someone.  Read this excerpt from his letter dated Thursday, 5 January 2017:

In Matthew 9:35–36, for example, Jesus is going through all the towns and villages, healing diseases and sickness, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. Matthew writes, Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Notice the order. Jesus learns the truth and then is motivated by compassion. He sees that the people are distressed, dispirited, and like sheep without a shepherd and, because of that truth, He is driven to compassion.

I had never considered that use of truth.  But because of how Alan painted Jesus’ actions toward people, I now WANT to look more carefully at those around me, to study their tone, their faces, their postures and ask the kind of questions that will give me some true insight into their burdens.  I know this:  only THAT kind of truth will soften my heart.

 

The other kind of truth can puff up, even if it’s accurate and well grounded.  (I’m not arguing against the responsibility we all have to KNOW truth and live by it.)

So here’s to WORDS and the power of eloquent and accurate communication, whether from a fellow created being or our Creator!

Meaningful definitions require boundaries

19 Oct

human-animal-stem-cell-research

Scientists at the National Institutes for Health apparently are talking about lifting a ban on research that would co-mingle human stem cells with animal embryos.

Human-Animal Embryo Stem Cell Research

Listening to a discussion about this back in August, the commentator who mentioned this new development posed the question:

  • What does it mean to be human?  If you have 99% human DNA and 1 % ‘other’, are you still considered human?

In other words, “How do we define the term, HUMAN?”

What came to mind was how TODAY, we seem to be playing fast and easy with definitions.

Two examples come to mind:

1a. Tolerance once referred to the restraining civil behavior between two or more people who held and articulated differing and/or contradictory beliefs and positions.  If you think about, one doesn’t tolerate what one find acceptable, one AGREES with it.  By definition, the ‘classic’ view of tolerance presupposes contrary views.

1b. Tolerance today seems to require that a ‘minority, despicable viewpoint’ be shut down, shamed and disbarred from the discussion table.

The term has remained the same, but the concept has changed.

2a. Marriage once referred to the legal union between one suitable (not a close relative) man and one suitable woman of appropriate age.

2b. Marriage today refers to a state-granted status that recognizes a two-person, gender-indifferent union with the same legal rights of a married biological male and female.  (A temporary quantity and constituent view – down the road who knows how many humans and what/who else might fit into this new definition!)

Logical friends, definitions matter!!!

These are but two current examples.

Think about other terms in the area of religion, for example:  God’s love, Faith in God or Prayer.  These ALSO seem to stand for a multiplicity of concepts.  So what exactly is the relationship between TERM and CONCEPT?

First of all, a concept is the immaterial idea of something one pictures, the image of which one holds in his head.  A concept can indicate something real or imagined like a tree or a unicorn. A term is the written or verbal name we give to that concept.

Terms can be confusing because the same term can refer to different concepts.  Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason teaches that before ANY discussion about a topic can ensue, two people must clarify and agree on the definition of terms used.  Conversational partners must know and state the concepts they have in mind when each employs a term.

So back to those religious terms I mentioned. Today, in Christianity, people seem to talk with ease and certitude about ‘the love of God’ or they announce: ‘I believe in God’ or ‘I pray’.  We cannot assume that they and we are picturing the same thing.  As the fox in Le Petit Prince says ‘Words are the source of misunderstandings.’

As the social climate across the literate world grows more fractured and sharp, logical and reasoning men and women CAN make a difference by gently asking the clarifying questions that will guide others to think about what they mean.

Who knows?   In bringing a concept to light, in employing the discipline of articulating WHAT WE MEAN, someone or even we ourselves might decide to modify what we believe. Not a bad result. For thinking is never wasted effort or time.

 

 

How to vote….

14 Sep

It’s a doozy of a choice.  And we’ve been leaning toward voting for NEITHER major candidate.  Yet, I want to approach this important constitutional right and privilege with reason thinking.

Acting and concluding ‘reasonably’ means one can support a conclusion or decision with a clear rationale.

As can be expected, a lot of conservative Christians have weighed in.  What do I find compelling so far?

Two voices and their take on how to vote stand out of amongst all the advice friends, family and respected leaders have offered:

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.  The essence of his advice is this:

  • When we vote in November 2016, we are choosing an action that WE believe will do the most good, whether voting for Trump, for Clinton, for a 3rd-party candidate or abstaining.  To vote for a candidate does NOT mean one endorses the entire platform he or she promotes NOR does it mean one approves of the candidate’s character in toto.

Professor Hadley Arkes of Amherst College offers what he believes is the most important consideration when allocating one’s vote:

  • Whoever is the next ‘POTUS’ or President of the United States will not only be able to nominate up to 4 Supreme Court Justices, he or she will also nominate Federal Court judges.

So far, these are the only two factors that will go into my ‘decision analysis strainer.’

kitchen strainer

We don’t have to make a conclusive decision until election day.  So I will continue to read, study, listen and pray.  Logical Joes and Janes use REASON to make any decision.

Impatience hampers logical discussions

24 Feb

Jumping the gun  True confession:  more often than not I am SO eager to use the limited time I sense in a discussion to communicate my view, that I don’t take the time to understand the other guy’s case.

This impatience can lead me actually to waste valuable time with my conversation partner. The other day when I was in Québec leading a group of my 8th grade French students I engaged in some interesting back and forth with our bus driver.  At one point, as he was pointing out how many churches around the city had closed and been renovated for other purposes, I asked him point blank if he believed in God?  At his response in the negative I invited him to explain. He was not loath to expound for a couple of minutes before the tour guide interrupted him with a query. We never got back to the question.  I now realize that a more effective question would have been to ask him:

  • Well what kind of god DON’T you believe in?

His response would have provided far more clues to his thinking and shine light on a more effective tactic I might employ.

Back stateside while catching up on some podcasts about thinking and reasoning, I heard Greg Koukl explain the importance of pursuing clarity on his radio broadcast (podcast). That advice reminded me of my Canadian conversation.  Greg recounted part of a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness visitor to his house (can’t remember if it was real or hypothetical) where the point of debate concerned the Trinitarian God of Christianity. First, Koukl clarified the Jehovah Witness’ distinction (and main point) between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Then he spent most of the remaining time getting the visitor to articulate what HE, the visitor, understood the Christian view of God to be (the view the man was criticizing).  Greg reported actually writing down what the other man said.  Only then did he compare that man’s talking points about his religion’s version with orthodox Christianity.

That approach would never have occurred to me.  I certainly know MY desire to make my case clear. And equally important is for me to understand properly my interlocutor’s viewpoint. But to take the time and tease out of the other guy what HE thinks MY position to be was a new strategy.  It certainly removes some pressure by making the OTHER guy articulate both his own view and what he assumes mine to be.

What happened in Greg’s conversation in the remaining time after clarifying both views? His investment paid off.  Because he had helped the Jehovah’s Witness specify in his own words the Christian position, Greg didn’t take long to make HIS own point.  It turned out that the Jehovah’s Witness was objecting to views of Jesus not at all factual.  So there really was no problem or point of disagreement.  It was a smooth and effective way to clear the smoke and confusion….or at least to rattle the cage of this über-confident evangelist promoting something other than biblical Christianity.

Logical Gal – what some will stoop to in order to WIN!

11 Feb

Winning at all costs

Would you like to know how you can win debates every time?  especially if your opponent is nervous and naive?

Just redefine the terms to suit you!  It’s that simple.

I heard this point expounded while listening to a podcast from Stand to Reason. – Here’s the Link.  Greg Koukl, the host, was providing listeners with an example of how some of the so-called New Atheists actually make a mistake when it comes to understanding the concept of Biblical Faith.

The bumper sticker below is apparently what they think faith means.  Do you suppose they exercise that kind of faith in airline pilots when they board a commercial flight?blind faith bumper sticker

What atheists might label as faith is simply trust or reliance.   Just as I’m sure they rely on previous safety records when deciding to board a commercial aircraft, Christians rely on eye-witness accounts as part of their ‘reasons to believe’ that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  Thus these atheists incorrectly define faith as: “a leap of faith without evidence” aka “blind faith”.  Certainly their false definition could be an intentional tactic.  But I actually think they are woefully ignorant about what the Bible has to say about trust, belief and evidence.  Numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments there are references to reason and evidence.

  • God, through the prophet Isaiah beckons, “Come now, let us reason together.…” (Isaiah 1:18)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as saying:

  • ” Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:11)

And what makes the credibility of Jesus so solid is that His claims could have been easy to dispute.  The falsifiability of a claim is its strength.  So what would falsify Christianity? For one thing, had the Romans or Jews of Palestine been able to produce the body of a dead, crucified Jesus THAT would have been evidence that he was not who he said he was.

Question – So who actually is clinging to a debate position without evidence?  Are the ‘New Atheists’ themselves making a ‘Leap of Faith’ that the Biblical God does not exist?

Leap of faith

Logical Gal and when making sense is not enough

21 Jan

Makes sense

That makes sense to me!

Have you ever heard that comment or uttered it yourself?  It sounds so innocent, doesn’t it!  Don’t we want to make sense of the world around us – especially in light of all the horrors and issues that DON’T make sense?

It’s human nature to try to identify, draw associations and categorize all the information that cascades into our consciousness, moment by moment!

But, we must not forget that just because something makes sense, that detail does NOT make it true!

I ran across a useful example of this faulty thinking the other day.  While listening to a radio program broadcast by the organization Stand to Reason, the host discussed how to deal with the possibility that scientists might very well indeed find a gene marker held in common by some gay men and women.  The presupposition explored by the host is this:

Whatever makes sense is right or must be true.

The caller who holds to the above assumption suggested the following opening to an argument based on that assumption:

  • If there is a ‘gay gene’, then it is natural for those with that gene to want to/ need to engage in what is ‘natural’

After having suggested that line of thinking, he finished his explanation with the comment, “Makes sense to me!”

The host, Greg Koukl, reminded listeners that JUST because something makes sense, that doesn’t make it true or right.   An argument based on the faulty assumption could be stated like this:

P1 – All that makes sense is right

P2 – Doing what is natural makes sense

C – Therefore, doing what comes natural is right

And going on, one can continue:  Given a ‘gay gene’, then it is only natural that those with this gene engage in the behavior that is part of their inherited disposition.

However in the above argument, although it may be rational and correctly formed, it can still be faulty if one or both of the premises are FALSE.  Take a look at the following obvious example of a valid, but unsound syllogism:

P1 – All things with 4 feet are alive

P2 – This table has 4 feet

C – Therefore, this table is alive

Why is this argument valid?  Because it follows the rules of formal logic.  It makes sense, we could say. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to tell that something is WRONG!!!

Bingo!  The faulty premise is the very first one.  NOT all things that have 4 feet are alive, only SOME.  So the universal statement needs to be changed to a particular statement to be true.

P1 – Some things with 4 feet are alive

P2 – This table has 4 feet

C – Therefore, this table is alive

Soundness Venn diagram

Let’s get back to the possible research into gene markers and whether doing what is natural makes sense.

  • Besides the unsoundness of the argument due to the faulty 1st premise..
  • Besides the false nature of the underlying presupposition that What makes sense must be so,

There is ALSO the assumption that could be debated:  We should engage in what comes naturally!

Really?

Question: Which ‘natural’ scenarios come to mind that raise a red flag?

tantrums